PLAYING ST. BARBARA
In the Depression-era coal patch known as The Hive, miner’s wife Clare Sweeney keeps secrets to survive. Stripped of her real name, she hides her friendship with a town pariah, haunting guilt around the deaths of her three infant sons, and determination never to bear another. She defies her abusive husband and the town’s rigid caste system to ensure a better future for her daughters, who harbor secrets of their own.
Deirdre conceals her attraction to a member of the despised Company police. Katie withholds her plans for a college education—and the convent—from her high school sweetheart. And Norah suppresses the cause of her mother’s frequent miscarriages, the devastating memory of one brother’s death, and her love for a married man.
Each is cast as St. Barbara in the town’s annual pageant, but scandal and tragedy intervene, allowing just one to play the coveted role. In turn, they depart from The Hive, leaving Clare to endure her difficult marriage—till a mine explosion rocks the town. Forced to confront the ghosts of her past, she faces a life-changing choice. Her decision will test her capacity to forgive and challenge her to begin a courageous journey to self-redemption.
“A timeless story of women finding their voices in a world dominated by rigid social divisions, sexual stereotypes, bigotry, and domestic violence. I cheered for them even after I turned the last page.”
—Barbara Claypole White, author of Echoes of Family